Sunday, November 23, 2008

More "nonreligious" callings

In "The Glory of the Ordinary" (September), Abraham appears--as a man who was called by God but who never, to my knowledge, preached or played any of the roles we normally associate with a religious calling or vocation. On the front end of his life, he most definitely was called by God to a great destiny:

". . . all peoples on earth will be blessed through you" (Gen. 12:3).

The end of it all was the birth of a nation from which sprung heroes of faith, and unfolding revelation of God --and Jesus. In between this portentous beginning and this awesome result was what would appear to be a pretty ordinary life.

What about Joseph? He, too, was called by God through two dreams he received as a young man. Then the Lord took him by a circuitous route from his home in Canaan to the palace of the Pharoah of Egypt. Having an administrative position in government doesn’t sound religious, but in that capacity, he was able to prepare a haven for the first 70 descendants of Abraham--God's Chosen People--who would otherwise have died of starvation.

And then consider Moses. When he killed the Egyptian who was oppressing a Hebrew slave, he appears to have been sensing that he was to help free his people from their bondage. Forty years later, he received a clear, momentous call from God from the midst of the burning bush. He actually did “preach” during his time as deliverer and leader of the Hebrew nation. But his main day-to-day role was hardly religious. He was food-and-water provider, peacemaker, and travel guide.

What was the difference between Abraham and every other father in the world? Between Joseph and other government officials? Between Moses and other civil rights leaders?

Each one of them was submitted to a God and a purpose that was bigger than their own goals, ambitions, desires, and comfort. They were captivated by a God who honored them by calling them to partner with him and responded with radical obedience and humble persistance. They did things that were not understood by those around them. Abraham left his family behind and headed out with no fixed destination in mind--believing that God would let him know when he had arrived. Moses stood in the face of Pharoah's obstinence, the specter of starvation in the wilderness, the mutinous anxiety and rebellion of his followers--and trusted in God's deliverance and provision.

They were so tuned in to their God that their very natures began to reflect the nature of God. Abraham became the "father of faith" and the "friend of God." Joseph behaved with integrity and diligence in the midst of slavery and imprisonment. In the midst of his own misfortune, he ministered to others perplexed by dreams. He harbored no bitterness toward God because of the manner in which God had brought him to his position of prominence, and he freely forgave his brothers for their crime against him. Moses was privileged to talk to God "face to face." He was willing for God to strike him instead of destroying the nation for their persistent waywardness. He was called "the meekest of men."

Because their eyes were on God, these men did ordinary things in unusual--and extraordinary--ways. They saw the eternal issues in the midst of mundane occupations. They were walking demonstrations to succeeding generations of God's nature and his ways.

What insight has God given you for solving problems in the company for which you work? How many of your neighbors will observe that God answers your prayers and thus be encouraged to approach him with their needs? What simple, God-inspired words will you speak that will change the course of another person's life?

You don't have to become a minster, rabbi, or priest to have a godly impact on the world. Look at the family, the community, the workplace where you are and ask God to show you what he is calling you to do for him in that place. He is needed there!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Boxed in!

Righteousness exalts a nation . . . (Prov. 14:34).

Now we are on the other side of the 2008 presidential election. In view of the fact stated in the proverb above—that it is righteousness—not a president or a platform—that exalts a nation, I doubt that it could be God’s will for us to have a president who promises to oppose some of God’s key principles for society. Not unless he has a great surprise in store for us in the form of the conversion of Barack Obama. However, even before the election, the question in my heart was “How can God give us the godly leaders we’re asking for, knowing that then we will settle back for ANOTHER four years, thinking we’ve done our duty by our nation—not realizing that the slide into ungodliness cannot be contained by better government, but only by bringing lost and deceived souls into the Kingdom?” Could it be that we have put the Lord in a position in which allowing an Obama presidency is the lesser of two threats to the advancement of the Kingdom of God in the United States?

I am reminded of Abraham’s prayer for the sparing of Sodom and Gomorrah. God didn’t answer his spoken petition, but he granted the prayer of his heart; namely, “Lord, spare my nephew and his family.” Could it be that our real prayer—“Lord , restore our land to godliness”—could not be answered without blocking the easy way out, without plunging us into a situation which forces us to abandon complacency and denial, without allowing circumstances which guarantee that we will seek the Lord for radical solutions instead of quick, temporary political fixes?

The radical, most permanent, and far-reaching solution, I believe, will be to concentrate most of our efforts to shining the light of the gospel and the fragrance of the knowledge of Christ wherever we go. We can choose to stop condemning, criticizing, and blaming the ungodly. (After all, what are sinners able to do other than sin?) We can pray for them. We can demonstrate for them the peace and security that are in Christ. We can speak the truth to them boldly, but in love and in the hope that God will grant them understanding and repentance. As we lift Christ up in these ways, enough of the ungodly will be drawn to him that this nation will naturally elect righteous people to rule over us.

We are fortunate that when we were sinners, Christ had mercy on us and came seeking us. That has always been the way that the enemies of the gospel have been won over—by sacrificial, seeking love. Not by force, not by angry rhetoric, but by willingness to show them a better way.

For too long most of us Christians in America have ignored this mandate to seek and save the lost. I greatly fear for us and for our nation if we ignore it much longer. Could it be that God, in his mercy, is boxing us in to wake us up?